Saturday, February 27, 2016

It's Official...I'm Freaking Out

It's one in the morning, got home from work around eleven. Loaded the dishwasher, dried some laundry and started some more. Zach wheeled the trash out for pick up and went to bed. Massey's in Orlando with Tim for the weekend. Sat looking through old pictures for over an hour and it hit me like a brick to the face.

I have some very major changes happening in the matter of a few short months.

I'm starting to get pretty freaked out.

Last night one of the Sous Chefs at work was talking with me and commented how sorry she was I was leaving. More than several co workers have made comments like "What are we going to do when you're gone?"

I'm starting to worry about what I'm going to do when I'm gone.

I've made so many new friends working at the airport. From shuttle bus drivers to the women who scrub restrooms.

From dishwashers who take their job as seriously as a surgeon's,

to random people I met each and every day, not only at work but on the way to and  from.

Working in the world's busiest airport has been hands down the most fascinating experience of my life.

I've waited on and met up close more famous people than thought I ever would but the people who weren't famous stand out most. I've crossed paths with people from literally all over the globe. I've waited on rich snobs who I won over with my PhD in BS and a few who had more money than sense.

It's been an eye opening lesson to me that each and every individual person on this planet is unique in their own (sometimes not, sometimes good) way. There may be one human race but like snowflakes are all different.

I always thought I was just a "Waitress" and probably pitied by many thinking what a shame it was.

I've always managed to do okay and my salary has increased with every job I've taken.  Before working at the airport I had only worked at three other places since 1981.

I remember after getting fired from LongHorn (still a sore spot) for a ridiculous reason after almost fourteen years, applied for Unemployment since my husband had also lost his job. It was the most humiliating experience of my life but had to do it. I put my  kids on Medicaid and also applied for (and received) food stamps. I've worked since I was fifteen years old and paid a lot of money into the system but was still embarrassing to have to do. You also had to attend seminars and workshops to keep the I did.

I remember the first workshop I attended, the room was packed with unemployed peeps. They asked us to fill out a form with our five year job history. I listed one, the girl sitting next to me said she had held five different jobs in the past nine months. I think that's when I became the teacher's pet of the workshop. I don't like changing jobs, never have. I'm old and it takes me a while to find my groove and feel comfortable at a place. Plus I tend to be a perfectionist at my serving job. Am  nowhere near being one in any other facet of my life but can say with conviction  am a  pretty excellent employee.

I was terrified to take the airport job.  I had secured a job for almost five years with a family owned local restaurant and felt extremely comfortable working there. The problem was we needed to make more money and my husband was still struggling to find a decent job. My initial interview was overwhelmingly ultra professional. It was a five star restaurant serving seasonal Mediterranean cuisine and the menu changed every four months.


Lucky for me I had the "In".

A former coworker and dear friend highly recommended me for the job.  She told me she was averaging a thousand per week, after taxes. The job had full benefits after six months.

If  had been anyone other than her, wouldn't have believed it but I did. They offered me the job at my first interview. It took me well over six months before I felt in the very least comfortable about my new serving position. I was selling and serving things I'd never even tasted before much less sold. Octopus, beef tongue and hundred dollar bottles of wine to name a few.

I had a wonderful mentor who watched me a like a hawk, constantly corrected but urged me to learn and succeed every time I did something wrong. He was the manager who interviewed me and initially offered me the job. He doesn't work there anymore and still miss him every day. The above photo is the last shift I worked with him. He and his wife are from Bosnia and I thought it fitting to give him a turban with his nickname  blinged on it with a shirt boasting pork, which he didn't eat but could wear. He told me later wore both the turban and  shirt all the way home that day. From the corporate office to turn in his badge at the airport to the Marta train back to his car in north Atlanta, getting some mighty strange stares.

He is the main reason I have succeeded at Ecco and so very grateful he took such an intense interest in my training.

My general manager (above) has left since as well. He was as almost as laid back and quiet as my husband but a terrific boss as well. This pic is from his last day working with me. Since  was German, decided giving him the German officer's helmet was a nice sendoff present as well.

I used to call them "Good Cop/ Bad Cop". Damir was on me all the time to do it correctly and never hesitated  calling me out when doing something the wrong way while Bryan was just a nice guy to be around (with his knowing  Damir had the bad cop part under control) so everything ran smoothly...and it did.

Then the above Sous Chef left. Darwin was awesome and sure he still is in his new job. He trained me  while in the expo window my very first day. He later told me  "I knew you'd be a good worker when you asked me so many questions about everything that first day."

It quickly became a running joke between us. When employees would call out from work (which they do) or not do their job the right way, would simply look at each other ... shake our heads and mutter "Acting like Government workers".

So of course  ordered him the above shirt he's wearing for his last shift with me.

Starting at such a crucial financial point in our lives, have recorded every penny I've made. I went from making about 35K at LongHorn with no benefits (which was fine when Tim was making almost 80K with full benefits) to about 30K at my last job with Tim out of work and had no benefits to suddenly making over 70K with full benefits,  both kids still at home under my insurance as well and making tremendous strides in our economic recovery. I bought and paid for three vehicles last year, replaced the fencing in our huge back yard, replaced an $800 garage door and put in a new floor in our kitchen along with catching up each and every bill and are now current on every one of them.

Granted not every server there makes that much but a select few do, like me. In the two years I've been there have called out only twice and was sick as a dog both times. I've never said no when a manager asked me to work an extra shift, just felt grateful for the opportunity. I treat every table and every customer as professionally as I can, to the best of my newly acquired abilities and for the most part have been handsomely rewarded.

Now in six months am walking away from the greatest job I've ever had and moving to Orlando to join my husband again after two years of being apart.

I am freaking out...big time.

I'm over fifty five years old with no idea where I'm going to work making the money I do now and love as much.

Granted Tim is doing well now (thrilled for him) in Orlando but I'm walking away from my over seventy thousand dollar job with no prospect of the same being guaranteed.

When you're over fifty five without a college degree and "just a waitress" is quite the intimidating dilemma, no matter how good a good worker you are.

You know what?

My husband moved a thousand miles away from our family and everyone he loves for almost two years to help this family survive. Surely I can move a few hundred and take yet another leap of faith for him.

I keep telling myself it'll all be okay.

I have to believe it will.

I have six months left to work every shift I can and make each one count in the most positive way to the best of my abilities.

Guess it's time to see how far my PhD in BS  can get me.

My huge thanks go out to Ecco and all they have allowed me to be and do.

It's hard to leave the top.

Til next time...COTTON

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Yes I'm Crazy

Servers. We're an odd and eclectic bunch. As for me, I like the hours and fact that every shift is a payday. I worked streetside for thirty four years and shifts were normally four to five hours long and walked out with all my tips at the end of every shift.

Now I work at the world's busiest airport beyond the security checkpoints. The shifts range from seven to eight  hours with two more hours of travel time, parking and security. Before I started parking at the international terminal it was four added hours of travel time. It was a great day when I could finally afford to park there.

One thing hasn't changed. I'm still a night owl and love the life. I usually get home and one or both kids are in bed or with Zach still at work. I can do whatever I want to do, watch whatever I want to watch and pretty much have the house to myself. I can put laundry in and blog while it runs or do some housework. Sometimes I don't go to bed until three o'clock. The earliest I have to be at work is one thirty in the afternoon and other days not until three.

I may go like a whirlwind but when I go down, go down hard. Unless I have something I have  to get done before work usually wake up around nine and watch the news in bed with a cup of coffee.

It's so nice to wake up and the house be all neat and tidy from my late night prowling around the place. I think of it this way...if I stay up til three getting things done there's no shame in starting my day at ten AM.

Sometimes I clean baseboards or clean walls. Sometimes I rearrange furniture and sometimes I"ll get all crazy with the Murphy's Oil Soap and clean tables, chairs and window sills. Mopping the kitchen and bathrooms are silent chores which don't disturb the others sleeping in the house while I knock back a Natty Light and get all busy.

Nothing feels better to me than padding into my kitchen barefooted in the morning and walking onto a clean floor. We have three big dogs who have (of as today) never learned how to wipe their paws before coming in the back door. I keep a beach towel in a small basket by the back door but twelve paws are a lot to maintain.

It doesn't help that we've had more than our fair share of rain for what seems like months.

Tomorrow is my first day off in seven. I had grand plans for working in the yards but seems that's a NOT unless I use a boat to maneuver around the yard. My alternative plan will be inside projects.

Last year my son and one of his buddies put in this new kitchen floor for me. It's laminate but has held up well. I did the entire kitchen for a hundred bucks and change. I bought the flooring at a discount store who send me emails about sales they have. I got one the other day for Armstrong laminate stone look tiles they have on sale for $39.97 a case, marked down from $82.27. Our living room carpet looks horrible, don't ask me why I chose light blue carpeting when we bought this house. I must have been delusional (we had three young kids then) and throw in owning dogs continuously the past nineteen years, you do the math.

It's been pretty busy at work theses past few weeks and have all the bills paid, even putting away some more savings. I've decided with all this rain (and more predicted) to take my little bitty car and buy enough stone tile laminate to do the living room. Now that I have the garage cleaned out can store it there until I find someone to install it. We have a tri level house (another delusional choice) and have two staircases leading out of the living room. One long one to the upstairs bedrooms and a shorter one leading down to the dining room, kitchen, laundry room and Massey's room.

Here's my game plan. I'm gonna rip the carpet off both sets of stairs and simply paint the wood. My former neighbor who had the same floor plan as us did just that and her steps looked pretty good.  I figure I can buy all the tiles this week and with my paycheck next week pay to have them installed. I'll do the stairs myself.

We also have a broken window in our dining room covered with two sheets of plexiglass and duct tape (from the outside) for almost three years. One summer while riding my Johnny Dear in the back yard cutting grass, threw a rock through the window.

Oops! ( my bad)

It's on the backside of our house so no one can see it but our dogs, but bothers me. It's two side by side windows but found a really neat large wooden picture window at the Habitat For Humanity Re Store that  think (hope) will fit nicely. I'm going by there as well tomorrow to see if it fits the measurements of my broken one.

I'll be storing that in the garage as well, for a future paycheck installation.

Finally getting the house close to being a pretty good deal for someone to rent when we pack it up and all move to Orlando in late September to join my husband who is already living and working there. We have dependable renters lined up to move in when we exit stage left.

I'm still kinda freaked out about this next big change in our lives but learned at least one thing over these past few years.

Life is a journey.

We've rambled, searched and sometimes even been lost... but we'll get there, almost are.

My journey began about four years before this picture was taken. Most awesome parents ever, destined to have an incredible life.

Then somehow  made to this.

Then somehow  changed to this.

Without my sister and brother I simply wouldn't be here.

True statement.

The reason my own husband and kids mean so much to me is mainly and mostly because I came from this.

Two of the greatest people to ever walk this earth met, married and had three kids who I was fortunate enough to be one of.

They both left us way too early and still miss them each and every day.

Because of these two and all the love they showed and provided, now know the way myself.

It's really simple... and called The Golden Rule.

This world would be a better place if everyone lived by these words.

I know it's made me a better person. I'm far from the best (maybe the top of the middle) but consider myself a work in progress.

(fast forward a day...I'm a slow blogger)

Our move move to Orlando is starting to feel real.

Too real.

Massey is flying down tomorrow to get her Florida driver's license and drive back up with her dad on Saturday so Tim and I can file our taxes. Massey has decided she's been "Daddyless" long enough and intends on moving down as soon as Tim finds us a place to live. Probably early Spring.

I'm going to miss her but understand completely. She's always been a Daddy's Girl. I'm more a Bossy Bestie but that's okay too.

I was at work tonight and three guys came in together and sat at a table for dinner. I kept looking at them and thinking I knew who they were. I heard them talking so knew they were Americans. I couldn't quite put my finger on it but when standing at the service bar waiting for drinks (right by their table)  looked at the one guy's profile and the little hamster in my head began to run on it's wheel again.

When Massey was sixteen years old she had wanted to see a band coming to Atlanta. I kept promising her to buy tickets but was when we were broke as jokes. I could pay the house note or buy tickets to a concert. The house note won.

By the time I had money for tickets the concert was sold out. The day of the concert I told Massey and her friend to "Let's just drive down there and see if we can get in."

Why not? I had the night off.

We got there over two hours before the show with a line of people (with tickets) wrapped around a city block in downtown Atlanta. One staircase led into the building and another out. I marched us all up the out staircase and began chatting with the tremendously large  security guard.

It took me over two hours but stood firm and told this security guy all about my life, our circumstances and that didn't matter how long we had to stand outside in the freezing temps, my daughter would be beyond thrilled if he could somehow, someway find us passes to go in.

They finally opened the doors and began to let people in. Less than two minutes later, the big dude came back with four guest passes;  moved the ropes and let us in, telling us to enjoy the show. We were front row and the girls had the best night of their young lives.


I sent Massey a text while at the service bar to see if they were touring, thinking this may be them. One minute later I got a text "Not on tour... just ask if it's them!!"

I leaned over and said to them "Excuse me, can I ask if you are brothers?" When they said yes, knew my creeping skills were in high gear and ventured again, "By any chance are you Boyce Avenue?"

Guess what...momma be right yet again!

They were the most awesome humble guys. I told them my story of going to their sold out concert and that my daughter would faint if she was at work at the restaurant now. (also told them she worked  there too, putting herself through college)

They all gave me their autographs for her, and even spelled her name right!

So I'm sending her off to Orlando in the morning with autographs I'm leaving on her dresser while she sleeps, hoping she kinda wants to be a Momma's Girl too.

Til next time...  COTTON

Friday, February 19, 2016

Back To Normality (as we perceive it)

Finally had my glorious and much anticipated day off yesterday. Knew I really needed it after taking the above Selfie (after makeup may I add) so spent the entire day doing exactly and only what "I" wanted to do.

I had paid all the bills on line and had some cash left over. Payday was only another day away so went a little crazy. In other words, I went to the Goodwill Emporium and Michael's. I buy my reading peepers at Michael's in the stitchery dept for $2.99 a pop, often on sale for $1.99. I picked up five new pair of 250  strength. They're very trendy looking but light weight and break easily with me taking them off constantly and putting them back on at work. I need them to read or see the computer but throw me off balance if wear them while I'm walking. One of my first days working  at the airport was checking my email on the shuttle bus as the driver announced to be careful stepping off (as she came to a stop by the curb in front of the doors). I gathered my things and went to step down off the bus with my glasses still on and fell onto both knees. The man behind me tried to help me up as the driver stepped out to see if I was okay. I could feel blood already running down both my shins and had ripped both knees of my jeans. I jumped up smiling (through the pain) said I was just fine and halfway ran into the terminal, embarrassed and really ticked about my new jeans. Lesson well learned!

Next stop was the Goodwill Emporium. With all the rain we've had and three big dogs mucking up the back yard, needed some boots to wear when working on the yard.

BAM!! Only one pair, leather and just my size for less than six dollars. Massey picked up a really nice trench coat for ten bucks and got a cute little shelf for over her bed. I picked up a small porcelain dish for the kids bathroom to serve as a soap dish in their shower so the bar of soap doesn't sit wet and deteriorating where they usually leave it.

We were on the way home when Massey mentioned she  passed a man building wooden dog houses by his trailer (more like a camper with the wheels off) about half a mile away from our house while on her way to school.

It's one of four sad little trailers stuck in the woods by the road behind a large subdivision they built a few years back. The owner should have sold the property to the subdivision being but probably held out for more money and now owns a little skid row behind really nice houses. Thank goodness there's a buffer of woods behind the "trailerhood."

We pulled into the driveway, more like a semi circle leading from the first to last trailer and back out to the road and stopped. The man was building a fourth dog house when we stopped. They were made out of scrap pressure treated wood but had roofs with shingles nailed on top and looked nice and pretty sturdy. Oh he went on and on about how he couldn't make them fast enough and already had the three finished ones sold for a hundred bucks apiece. He said one guy was supposed to come today and pick up two but if I wanted one of them would sell it to me for eighty.

It wasn't a dream dog house but big enough for two if not all three pups at once. I can say this man was most probably pretty hard up for money and have been there myself. The igloo dog house we have (was given to us) costs about $199 brand new and only fits one dog at a time. Winter is crazy in the south and usually have a late pop of freezing temps and frozen precipitation late in March and sometimes even April. With me, both kids working and Massey also still in college are all often gone at the same time and needed a place for the pups to be snug and warm on days when all of us were gone for long periods of time. Plus, I wanted to help this man out. Eighty bucks is a lot of money when you're living in a camper without wheels on the side of a road. A few years ago that could've been us.

I told the man I'd have to get my son to come pick it up in his truck when he got off work.

Zach got home from work around five and soon as he walked in the door, hit him with the news I needed a favor. That went over like a ton of bricks. He had been at work since early that morning and wanted to take a shower. I told him I would ride with but needed him to help load the two hundred pound doghouse into the truck.

It took maybe five minutes to get there, and as soon as we pulled into the man's driveway Zach started complaining before we even got out of the truck.

"Mom, I could build you a doghouse better than that...easy!"

Well here's my thing. We've had three dogs for over almost five years and Zach has been talking about building that doghouse since the day we brought Ziggy home. I love Zach but is the biggest procrastinator to ever come out of my body.

Case in point:

This beast sat under our basketball goal, undriven for well over a year. When he parked it there said he was going to flip that car and make triple his investment. I finally sold it myself on Craigslist and Zach only lost a hundred bucks.

Sounds about right.

Don't get me wrong, for about six months he worked on the car every single night, for hours and hours. Then he hit a stumbling block with the o2 sensor and the car sat...and sat and sat. It was the longest time he'd ever put into a project so gave him six more months to either fix or sell it.

When we gave Zach the old Ford  Ranger Tim had driven out to Texas and over a year later down to Orlando then back here to Georgia, I knew the thrill was gone for Zach's project and had to take over car removal duty of the "Thug-mobile" so I did.

Back to my doghouse... you know, the one Zach could build better. (right)

I finally convinced Zach the money would mean a lot to this man and a lot more to me to be able and help him out while also easing the burden of Zach having to build a better one for me by that night.

So Zach ended up being kinda right. (huge momma sigh)

After shoving the beast into the back of the Ranger and driving home slowly, pulled into our driveway to discover half the shingles had blown off. This was after one of the boards split when the man and Zach tried to lift it into the back of the truck.

Okay, so  I'm a sap.

The man went and got some nails and pounded it back together. I still say it was a good deal.Two of Zach's buddies had to come over and help get it out of the truck, the nails held and I had me a big ole pup condo for eighty bucks!

I left in my own car to go to Tractor Supply for a huge bag of  cedar shavings for the new condo. I asked if they sold shingles, it was a negative.

On the way home,  thought about the subdivision around the corner from me where they had started building more new houses. I lurked around the subdivision until found a house being built and at the roofing stage.


I didn't even have to climb in the huge dumpster (trust me I would have) and found just enough shingles to cover the half that blew off and even picked up some spares.

For literally years I had to make up excuses. From borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, to kiting checks simply to keep the utilities on because NFS fees were cheaper than having them shut off and re connected. I posted dated checks and sometimes fed the dogs a day late.

You know what? I can't remember one time that any of my kids complained.

I'm sure we all complained silently and prayed for life to get better...

And it did.

We made it through with help from too many to name. Tim made the sacrifice of starting over at the bottom of a huge company but moved up quickly then moved a thousand miles away from his family to move up even further. I took a leap of faith, stepped out of my own comfort zone (which started to feel uncomfortable) and realized my true potential as a professional server.

It's been a long journey, but one which made me stronger and more confident of my own ability to change what I thought was simply destined to be.

I was a rat with a helmet, sniffing that cheese with my mouth watering and wanting it really bad.

I've also learned the more you pay forward, the further you'll go.

Yes I'm tired and worn out, but in a most excellent and exuberating way. Nobody ever said life would be easy and if your life is (trust me) you're doing it wrong.

I'm not normal, never have been and wouldn't want it any other way!

If we all worked together instead of insisting to point fingers, could be a much greater world.

Call me crazy, I consider it a compliment!

Til next time...


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

My Crazy Valentine

I've been working like a demon for the past couple of weeks. They frown on overtime but I have gotten it the past four weeks. They may frown on overtime but frown more on being short staffed so have taken advantage of that and benefited nicely from it.

I've had one day off in the last twelve and completely lost track of what day it even is anymore. I woke up this morning around nine after going to bed after three. Massey came into my bedroom around ten to get something out of my closet and commented to her  thought she'd already be gone (thinking was Monday and she had school early) but said she was just about to leave. She was really leaving for her noon shift at work.

My (sometimes) really sweet son brought my morning ritual of huge glass of Nestle Quik and medium size glass of OJ to me in bed as I turned on the TV to watch some news before getting in the shower for my Monday mid shift which starts at one thirty. I was kinda confused when I saw George Stephanopoulos talking  and really surprised when  turned the channel and found out they had changed the Walking Dead premiere to Monday too.

It dawned on me around noon when Zach (being extra sweet) made coffee and brought me a huge cup that it was really Sunday. On one hand was great news... could remain in my comfy bed because  didn't need to be at the airport until three . On the other hand meant I still had a Monday shift to go until my day off on Tuesday.

I'm usually off on Sundays but so many servers requested Valentine's Day off  had scheduled me (without a Valentine close by) to work.

I stopped by Jersey Mike's on the way to work and bought a ridiculously long turkey sub to take and share with my co workers. I'm not a big fan of sub shops unless it's a Johnny's Special (where I worked for fourteen years) but let me tell you, order a turkey with provolone, a little mayo, shredded lettuce, onion, lots of pepper and a bit of sea salt and's one of the best things you'll ever scarf down in a hurry while in the back of a kitchen at work. I cut it into about eight smaller subs to be a grab and go item we could swallow before rounding the door back out to the dining room.

If there's one thing my co workers love about me is my lunch box I bring in every shift. Sometimes I bring saltine crackers with a little container of crunchy peanut butter and make little sammiches to grab and go. Goldfish crackers are another hit (we love us some seafood)  and usually always bring the instant energy factor...candy. Three Musketeers  are my personal fave but get a mix bag of fun size treats and's better energy than a double espresso, which I've also needed lately.

Of course I had my bag of red and pink Hersey Kisses to give each customer with their checks and is still working like a charm on travelers. I place the bill down on the table, tell them "Here's a goodbye kiss from me and thanks for dining with me" as I give each person a Hersey Kiss. The very few who leave them on the table uneaten are immediately snagged up by the server assistants who clean and reset my tables.

It's a win/win for me.

Ironically enough the restaurant where I work is Ecco, although spelled differently with a different meaning.

The word Ecco actually translates as "Here" and  am quite anxious about leaving "Here."

I was talking with the executive chef (who I love and tremendously respect) tonight while at work, standing at the expo window. Told him although I was thrilled for Tim's new job, was terrified of leaving mine.

I'm not just leaving a job but leaving the job of a lifetime. It's not just the money which in itself is phenomenal for a fifty five year old waitress to make, but leaving a company with values and beliefs dear to my own and quite simply fell under their spell and have grown tremendously as a server under their wings.

Case in point. We were voted the number one airport bar in the entire world last year by Fox news. How am I going to find another job like this at the age of fifty six?

Chef made me feel better by saying they would all write letters of recommendation for me and  Fifth Group (our parent company) is widely known as being first class restaurateurs.

I've decided will simply make the most of my last six months or so at my job which I love so dearly, then take yet another leap of faith and hope.

I'll have to say am scared of being broke like we were five years ago. It was a fast tumble down and an even more arduous task to come back from. My brother and sister have done more for me  than any two sibs ever have and had so many people and friends coming to our rescue that although may seem embarrassing to most was sincerely and honestly appreciated by every member of my family.

In 1990, Tim and I made promises and took vows to each other. It has taken almost thirty years to get back to where we started but both weathered the storm. Last year he moved over a thousand miles away just to keep us together.

I can certainly move four hundred for him.

Dang, we had well over twenty years of fantastic luck and success but those five bad years were like a knife that cut us apart.

Life's a dance which can be and sometimes often is tough, so wear a helmet. But always always dance with the one who you wanted to go to the dance with in the first place.

I'll see you in September, Tim.

Til next time...COTTON